DR. MORGENTALER AND THE ABORTION DEBATE

By Fred Hazel Telegraph Journal July 18, 2013 Dr. Henry Morgentaler, champion of abortion rights in Canada, died in the spring, but the controversy over his practices and beliefs linger on. Certainly he was a polarizing figure for two diametrically opposing views about the values and rights of human life, which are still not reconciled. We need to work on it. I could never support Dr. Morgentaler's position, but I'm not one of those dancing on his grave. I just think he was wrong. He was awarded the Order of Canada, and many consider him an apostle of fundamental rights for choice. I consider his views led him to override the inherent rights of unborn babies. My beliefs about the origin and destiny of people are different than those held by Dr. Morgentaler. I find it hard to think that a physician, dedicated to the principle of "first, do no harm," could be comfortable about actively obliterating so many just-beginning lives. The crusading abortionist didn't see it that way. He seemed to espouse the view that unless unborn babies were really wanted, the solution would be to get rid of them. That's what many people sympathetic to him saw in his dedication to aborting unwanted unborn - the upholding of a woman's right to choose how she wants to deal with a pregnancy. He frequently made that case when referring to the time he spent in prison for flouting the then-Canadian law against abortion. Because of his efforts, Canada's abortion law was eventually struck down. We've been in a sort of edgy limbo ever since, and few politicians want to touch it. As Dr. Morgentaler told it, he encountered so many social misfits in prison - people whom he saw as unwanted, unloved and not useful to society - that he concluded the world would be better without them. He took the position we'd have fewer criminals and society would be better off if such people had been denied the opportunity of being born. He made that a public point of argument, with New Brunswick's former premier Frank McKenna and subsequent premiers, who held the belief that the people of this province don't want their tax dollars to fund Morgentaler's private abortion clinic in Fredericton. He dismissed opposition to his view as "a religious belief." Well, I think it has always been more than that. Beyond any specific religious belief, it can also be seen as a moral position. A fetus, a just-conceived and developing child, is a living entity, not just a piece of tissue in a woman's body. It's a created person, a precious beginning member of the human race with a right to live, grow and be born and for whom our society needs to have a responsibility. I'm not being judgmental of any individual woman who decides what she wants to do about her pregnancy. I would not condemn a woman who makes a choice I don't agree with. But I believe society as a whole has to consider the rights of the unborn. We can't kill our own because it's not convenient to let them be born. Our society has still a way to go on this issue. I have a feeling the pendulum is swinging from free-choice abortion on demand to a perception of the rights of the unborn. I hope we get to the point where it's perceived as better to welcome a child than to kill it. Fred Hazel is a retired editor-in-chief of this newspaper. His column appears on Thursdays.

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